Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rural Texas town to be home of detention center for transgender immigrants

Officials say a new detention center in rural North Texas for transgender immigrants will improve conditions for transgender detainees, but critics say it will open the door for further abuse, Kate Groetzinger reports for Quartz, which is owned by Atlantic Media Co.,  publisher of The Atlantic. Alvarado (Best Places map), a town of 3,800 about 30 miles outside Dallas, will be the site of the Prairieland Detention Center, which will house up to 36 detainees when it opens in November, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The only other such institution is in Santa Ana, Calif., which officials recently voted to shut down in 2020, following a report by Human Rights Watch documenting abuses of detainees at the facility.

Prairieland "is the first to include a unit built specifically to house transgender detainees," Groetzinger writes. "According to ICE officials, the construction of a transgender unit in Texas is meant to improve conditions for transgender detainees. Transgender activists and advocates say it represents an expansion of an abusive system that can’t protect transgender individuals’ safety and rights. Prior to last year, the government had no protocol for handling transgender detainees, according to Flor Bermudez, a director at the Transgender Law Center."

"In June 2015, ICE released a memorandum addressing the treatment of transgender detainees, instructing detention centers to adopt new provisions governing everything from strip searches, clothing options, and medical care to housing assignments. The ICE unit at the Santa Ana City Jail agreed to implement the memo’s provisions on June 1, 2016, according to ICE officials, and the Prairieland Detention Center has also pledged to adopt the provisions upon opening in November. This does not guarantee better treatment, according to Adam Frankel, one of the researchers who helped compile the Human Rights Watch report on Santa Ana." (Read more)

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